Why does everything always have to be about me?

If I walk into a room and greet someone, but they respond with a grunt, I automatically take it personally and assume it must be something I said or did.

Likewise, if someone cancels an appointment or treats me with less respect than I reckon I’m due, I will often take it as a reflection of who I am. If the cancellation was important enough, I might feel disregarded, and maybe even rejected.

Last week my Therapist Paul cancelled my session. Well, he didn’t exactly cancel, but I turned up at the service only to discover he wasn’t there and the staff had forgotten to let me know. The whole palaver felt hugely irritating because we have now missed six sessions within eight months.

I will not make excuses why this came at the wrong time or how grumpy I was to begin with. Recent therapy is learning to be honest about my feelings, especially the unhappy ones. I expressed annoyance at Paul’s secretary and then I stomped my way through Thursday before blowing off more steam during group therapy on Friday.

I was tired of allowing people to walk all over me as though I’m an idiot. I moaned about how difficult it is to have an unreliable Therapist and how rude of Paul not to call the next day to apologise, “It just proves what he thinks of me,” I whimpered along… “And if he can’t be bothered calling before next week’s session, then I won’t bother attending.” Sometimes I forget how old I am.

I was giving it a good old run for its money and in the process of my tizzy, something inside my mind suddenly switched. I’m not usually good at taking a step back to identify my own feelings or those of my opponent, not when there’s steam belching from my ears.

Of course, I was feeling rejected, disregarded, disrespected, and maybe even a tiny winy bit emotionally abused. However, it finally dawned that the therapy services weren’t going out their way to cause this distress on purpose. My unreasonable and erratic response was associated with triggers from defending my early life from narcissists.

Narcissistic parents exert a wide spectrum of violence and intimidation towards their children, but another tool they use with skill is rejection. They see misbehaviour or criticism as a major challenge of their own perfection and will subsequently withhold love, conversation, and even presents, in response to questioning or not living up to their flawlessness.

How do I know Paul wasn’t responding to another client’s crisis, or one of his own? Who am I to judge the service for being so overwhelmed they forgot to call me, just this one time? Why does it always have to be about me?

Growing up in a controlling and abusive environment hardwires the brain into assuming that whenever someone is abrupt or when things don’t quite go our way, it’s a personal reflection or rejection of who we are as individuals. If those early caregivers abused, rejected, or humiliated us, it’s easy to assume other people are doing the same.

Sometimes people are too busy to be perfect all of the time, other people are simply just having a bad day, but this doesn’t reflect how they feel about me. Maybe their budgie died or they might be responding to someone who has more needs than I do.

This change of thinking is one of a few transitions going on at present. They are just in time for our two-week therapy break. While I miss the sessions, it feels an important time to just sit back and allow the process to take shape. I don’t have a clue what this “process” is all about, but I am distinctly aware of its presence.

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48 thoughts on “Why does everything always have to be about me?

  1. Andi

    Excellent reflection on how current day situations trigger historical wounds. That being said, I still think it’s worth talking through with Paul because this is such important material.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thanks, Andi, yes, I did speak to Paul a little. For sure his absences affect therapy, but I was just so pleased to have a change in thinking…. more work for after the break 🙂

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  2. lifeconfusions

    Reading your post reminded me of a recent post I wrote myself along the same lines, about this Human Nature of ours. Something I’ve been thinking for a while myself too Cat. This was very reflective. It matters that you realized all this and you are looking deep for answers and within yourself. Your words were a food for thought for me.

    Hope you have a relaxing week ahead Cat ❤

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s a hard lesson for sure, but great to see things change all the same. What was the title of your post? Send me a link here, please, save me searching. Thank you

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  3. edwinasepisodes

    I can understand why you take things personally Cat, especially after what you went through as a child with your parents. There is nothing wrong with letting off a bit of steam, but I do agree with Andi above that you might want to talk to Paul about it. 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      I think letting off steam was important too, as was telling Paul he pissed me off for taking too much time off. However, the change of thinking was long overdue and I hope I can hold onto that the next time I blow a gasket:-) Thanks Edwina

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  4. Priceless Joy

    I’m always so amazed at how eloquently you express yourself in words and in describing your feelings. I read something you have written and think, “Yes, I can identify with that feeling! I understand exactly where he is coming from.” I wish I could express myself as easily as you do. I love how the “light” came on in your mind regarding your feelings and seeing the opposite end of the spectrum. I love how it was revealed to you and the way in which you revealed it to us. I identify with you so much that as you are healing through therapy and sharing with us, I find myself healing too.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I don’t find it easy to express myself, this post was two weeks old! Nevertheless, I appreciate your kind thoughts. It’s important to see the opposite sides point of view, which doesn’t come easy when I’m in a mood. Thank you, Joy, and I hope you do find healing here…

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      1. Priceless Joy

        If you don’t find it easy to express yourself, then you sure cannot tell that from your writing. I understand about not being able to see the other side of things when we are wrapped up in our emotions. You are right, it is always good to see both sides of things. The way in which you write your posts, plus your subject matter, I do find a lot of healing.

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  5. Sharon Alison Butt

    This reminds me of a story I heard about a man on a train with three young children. While they ran wild and made lots of noise, the dad just stared out of the window, oblivious to the bad behaviour of his offspring.

    Two ladies who were trying to have a conversation, finally flipped and gave the man a verbal attack, telling him he should have more consideration for fellow passengers and show some respect by controlling his kids.

    The man turned and said in a shaky voice, “I’m very sorry. I’m a little distracted as their mother died two weeks ago and we’ve just come back from the funeral. I was focussing on how I miss my wife and how they are so gonna miss their mum.”
    —————–
    But, I do hope this wasted trip doesn’t happen to you often. On the flip side, maybe this is good preparation for when the sessions finally come to an end? Would you find Fridays hard to cope with knowing Paul was no longer there to talk to? It’s good that you are able to see the possible other side of things – you are more mature than your two parents put together.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Ooops that’s quite a foot in mouth story!

      yes, group ends in Dec and Paul 6mths later, so it is good practice in a lot of ways, although he’d better not do much more of it 🙂 Still, it is a good lesson to learn.

      Thank you, Sharon

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  6. therabbitholez

    Well put, when you have these reactions which of course trigger old behaviours, it can make you step out of your circle and look at it from the outside in.

    My own mothers legacy if you will, were first she was very critical of me, it just never stopped and had me believing for a long time that I was just like she said, when I’d gotten older and was able to fight back, it more or less stopped, but it was a hard battle and to this day, when critcised my first reaction is to explain, even when there is no need, it’s an automatic response.

    The second was that she was always chronically late, it drove me nuts, as we were always the last to arrive anywhere and when your kids you really feel those impatient looks, or late to be picked when knowing your friends parents just wanted you gone.

    To me it just signified a complete lack of respect for others it’s like saying my time is more valuable than your, and to this day lateness irritates me no end(don’t have a problem when people call) but it just makes me anxious.

    With Paul, your now really getting down to the nitty gritty and it’s annoying to miss a session especially if you had something in particular you wanted to talk about.

    At least you vented in group, better out than in, and importantly connecting with those feelings.

    Take care x

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    1. Cat Post author

      The problem with over critical parents is that they’re s focussed on what we’re not, they often miss what we are.

      Of course, Paul’s absence does affect therapy and we did manage to chat a little about that last week, although I was more happy with my new perspective, it did outweigh the irritation. Thank you, Cay, much appreciated

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  7. D. Wallace Peach

    To be honest, Cat, you’re awareness of your feelings is remarkable. Realizing that sh*t happens and has nothing to do with us is liberating. I remember taking things personally, fretting over them, and then learning later that my interpretrations were off base. I had wasted so much energy on imaginary slights! Now, even when someone IS rude or irritable, I still get to decide if I am going to give away my well-being. That ability to step back, observe, and choose is wonderful. You are incredibly insightful and articulate.

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  8. Dawn D

    Coming back to Diana’s comment above, it reminds me of something that happened earlier today. I was standing in line in a restroom with my youngest. A mom with three young kids was waiting and obviously trying to cut the line even if in a non obvious way. When she finally did and went into a stall ahead of us, my child said to me quietly “Mom, this lady cut the line, that’s mean!”.
    Another woman in front of us had a reaction of anger, commenting along the lines of how shameful it was to cut the line.
    I replied “Yes, she shouldn’t have, but she had 3 young children, and one of them was almost crying, possibly because he needed to go so bad. It’s probably better they got to go before we did, we wouldn’t have wanted that young child to feel ashamed because he couldn’t hold it any more and wet himself in front of all these people.”
    My own psychiatrist had to cancel many sessions with me at a very inconvenient time for me. I later learnt he had had cancer. I felt ashamed of my reaction on the day.

    But I agree, it is all about us, because we were raised to believe that all sorts of crazy shit happened to us in forms of abuse (even if we didn’t realise that’s what it was back then) because we deserved nothing else (even if we had no clue *what* we did wrong, it was obviously something *we* did). This somehow shifted our train of thoughts that whatever happened, it was either our fault or directed against us.

    I couldn’t have put it so nicely into words, but when I read the beginning of your post, I knew exactly where you were going with it. Thanks for offering me words to think things through! 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s nice to teach children about other people’s perspective, but narcissistic parents aren’t too good at this because they only see it from their point of view.

      A favourite statement of my mum whenever we hurt ourselves was, “That’s God punishing you for being bad to me and misbehaving.” Even today, I need to fight that little demons inside my head from coming forward whenever I am hurt, physically or emotionally.

      I am pleased you were able to understand my point, Dawn, thank you for commenting 🙂

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      1. Dawn D

        Reading your reply makes me realise how much my ex’s parents (his mother particularly) are narcs. Which explains why he only sees anything from his point of view. He cannot imagine that anything can happen that wouldn’t be aimed at him.
        And your whole post spoke to me, and I realise my parents were/are narcs in their own way. I am struggling to call my mother at the moment. I am supposed to call her, have been told many times that it’s the children who should call their parents, so she won’t bother picking up the phone… and I think: why should I inquire about your well being now, when you didn’t care much about mine as a child? I know this is a harsh statement, because she did the best she could. But… it wasn’t enough to give me he love I needed. And now, I have to live with the result of that.
        Sigh! It’s messed up, I relate so much about it all. I’m trying to heal, but it’s hard, because I’m always shamed into everything, or she plays victim… I don’t even think she realises it!
        😦

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  9. drgeraldstein

    Good for you, Cat. As far as “not usually (being) good at taking a step back to identify my own feelings or those of my opponent, not when there’s steam belching from my ears,” I don’t know any of us who are. You have earned your membership card in the human race! 😉

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thanks, Dr G. I was tempted to talk more in the post about my inability to mentalize, which is really the crux of my post, but it just felt too long to explain in one go. The therapy I’m doing is Mentalization Based Therapy.

      Thank you for commenting.

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  10. raphaela99

    What an amazing revelation you had! I regularly have an overwhelming feeling of abandonment if a friend doesn’t reply to a message, on my birthday or other celebrations, etc. Any niggling doubt tends to flare into a full-blown episode, relating to the rejection I faced as a child. It takes quite a bit to talk yourself around. I agree with the lovely people above. It is a subject to bring up with Paul.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Raphaela, those messages from childhood can catch us off guard and that’s usually whenever we’re emotional in any way, but awareness is the key to change. Thank you for commenting, appreciated

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  11. cardamone5

    I used to do, and still sometimes do, the same thing, Cat, which affirms your theory that children of narcissists are programmed to take things not going their way personally. I struggle a lot with this, esp. now that I am looking for a job, which is filled with nos. We just have to give ourselves a bit of a break, offering understanding that we will get nowhere else because most people didn’t grow up as we did, and try and take the step back that we did, and not beat ourselves up when we do.

    Love,
    E

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth, it’s not my theory, but textbook stuff, but it definitely fits with my own experience and every other adult child of a narcissist. You’re spot on about giving ourselves a break and especially not beating up on ourselves. Job hunting is a tough one and fits with that niggling self-doubt. Good luck and thanks for commenting 🙂

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    2. Dawn D

      I’d never associated my problems with rejection when looking for a job as an aftermath of growing up with narcs… thanks for pointing it out, it will hopefully help me take things more lightly!

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  12. Ellen

    I was thinking about this in the context of my own struggles with bosses. I take things personally to the extent that I get depressed. It’s just so hard for me to try and figure out what’s real and what’s the filter I’m putting on reality. I know I have a very negative filter. Yet injustice and bad treatment exist out there – but are they happening to me? Hard to say.

    I do think it’s a real issue if no one even called you to cancel the appointment. And lots of missed sessions – ditto. You can be sure the T would comment if the client was cancelling sessions right and left. However, thinking about it as you did, letting it go, seems like it helped you a lot. Seeing it from others’ points of view. I’m here pondering this!

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  13. Anxious Mom

    That post hit home with me, as many of yours seem to do. I can’t remember if I posted it or not, but I was upset a few weeks ago after an appointment being canceled, on the heals of a few other things getting changed around/canceled. It’s tough and was difficult to understand why that reaction occurred.

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  14. dgkaye

    It seems you are learning a lot about yourself with this therapy Cat. It was good of you to come to the realization that although abused children are conditioned to feel the way you do, not everyone is out to get them. Great growth! 🙂

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  15. sensuousamberville

    ok, first your responses are valid Mr. Cat. It is disrespectful to cancel an appointment and not notify you. Now stepping back a bit, that can happen with little time to notify someone, emergencies do happen. That being said though, a follow up call as soon as able to apologize is not difficult. More so when you know how rejection is more of a likelihood. Not by the receptionist either. You are mentalizating though. You are seeing the other possibilities, that it is not all about you, other situations can cause someone to miss an appointment, perhaps not in the now, but upon reflection.

    But Paul should have contacted you as soon as possible. I may miss an appointment due to an emergency, but a follow up call, preferably that day, is not so hard, to touch base and reassure. To be sure my patient is in a good place and a missed session will not create another emergency.

    I think talking to Paul about this is a good idea.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Oh we did have a chat about it and his dilemma was (yet)another genuine emergency. He didn’t come back to work, only to meet with me the following week because we were just about to break up for 2wks. I think I was just so pleased to be seeing it from the other side, it kind of overshadowed the blunder. The service was dealing with an unusual crisis and staff shortage, which I later found out about.

      A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, so it’s not even worth mentioning when we return next week. This particular post was actually 2 weeks late, but significant all the same.

      Thank you, Amber

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      1. sensuousamberville

        It is great that you are seeing both sides now Mr. Cat. It may fester a bit at the time, it does with anyone, but as you ponder you can reduce that stress as you see the other side and other possibilities. It feels good doesn’t it?

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  16. manyofus1980

    I want some of your brilliant awareness Cat. I’m jealous. I would so be like its all about me 🙂 I’m hard wired to think that lol. Hope you see Paul soon and you guys work it out. I would mention to him your concerns and how you felt. As I am sure you will. XXX Carol anne

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    1. Cat Post author

      Awe thank you, Carol Anne. The failure to “mentalize” (identifying your own feelings and those of others) is a common problem in many mental health disorders, but we can learn through therapy… I guess it just happens when its good and ready.

      Thank you for commenting 🙂

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  17. MC

    OMG… this is me. YIKES. In fact, I had a total melt-down yesterday over seeing someone’s behaviour in a way that made me react exactly like this… “Of course, I was feeling rejected, disregarded, disrespected, and maybe even a tiny winy bit emotionally abused.”

    I’m busy picking up the pirces of me today. Re-assembling my heart. thanks for this. It helped a LOT.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s so difficult to see past the fury when we’re seething, but it does leave us feeling drained. I hope you’re managing to pick up the pieces and I’m so glad you found this helpful, thank you, MC, it’s nice to hear

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